Friday, November 13, 2015

A wonderful Friday the 13th

I've said it before, and I'll say it again... I love Friday the 13th, and here's my latest reason to love them:

Today, I signed on with Patricia Nelson of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Yes, that's right.

No, no need to check your calendars. This isn't an April Fools post.

Are you stunned? Yeah, me too. The past two weeks have been a little like living in a constant state of delirium (meant in a good way), and not only because I've been on antibiotics for a mild case of pneumonia.*

Soooooooo, the story?

You know how I like to obsess over 'spin' and over-analyze things to death, so I could tell this from several different angles.

Well, I've read a lot of other writer's stories and I've thought a lot about what I want/don't want to tell.

Theoretically, I could structure this story around how dyslexia has been a disadvantage, how a big part of me never felt I would ever be able to play in the professional's playground no matter how much work/time I put into this.

But I'm not interested in this being a triumph-over-adversity story, because, really, this is only the start of a new journey.

Or I could structure it around how dyslexia has been an advantage, has given me an odd way of looking at the world, more stamina, a thicker skin, and a willingness to keep hammering away at something, even if there's little chance I'll succeed.

But I'm also not interested in telling a don't-give-up-you'll-win-in-the-end story, because hard work doesn't always equate success.

I'm also not going to talk about how long I've been at this, how few/many queries/partial/fulls/rejections I've tallied up, mainly because I don't think any of that is important. All it does is invite comparison, and everyone has their own writing journey, their own obstacles, and their own decisions to make about what to put their energy into, and what demands and deserves their emotional/psychological focus.

...right, I did promise not to over-analyze...

Okay, so instead, I'm going to (hopefully) make you smile and (perhaps) laugh.

(which is usually AT me, yes? I am my own favourite target for humour)

And try to convey why I think this was a good fit, from my perspective.

In my previous post about SiWC 2015 I mentioned that, instead of using my agent pitch session to pitch, I used it to ask for a professional opinion on how to set up a particular query. Well, it did start out as a non-pitch-session, but then it somehow transmogrified into a pitch after getting onto the subject of my ungendered main character, N, in TRoRS.

And honestly, up until 15-20 minutes before the session, I was still debating whether to give my space to someone else -> I didn't want to waste an agent's time because I was not planning to pitch, and that's kinda what they're there for.

 But instead, I decided to be selfish and get my question answered.

(thank you, beloved local writing buddies, for pushing me to be selfish...)

...and wow, I'm certainly glad I did...

Patricia was delightful, enthusiastic, quick-witted, and friendly. Talk about an award-winning first impression.

(I should ask for pointers)

She asked for the full.

...I left, somewhat in shock. And I sent it after the conference. Actually, I waited an entire 2 days to send it.

(blame the shock)

And happily set it out of my mind. Thankfully, I've always been pretty zen about queries/requests/etc. Once I click 'send' on an email, I know I have no more control over it, so I focus on things I do have control over. I was not stressed, worried, or hopeful. I was only starting to get vaguely curious about the status of the fulls that had gone out in July. My brain was occupied with my Northern Fairytale, cannibalistic gods, and whether raw bone marrow would spread easily like soft butter, or would be more gelatinous, like cold jelly.**

So I was shocked (yet again) when barely 24 hours later she emailed, said she was halfway through, loved it so far, and wanted me to send sample chapters of other things I was working on.

(I mean, seriously... who reads that fast?)

After a little back-and-forth about what projects she was interested in seeing ugly-first-drafts of, I sent off the first 30 pages of two other stories.

...and 24 hours later...

...after running around in the dark at the dog park with Eva in 7C weather wearing a tank top, thin pants, and barefoot shoes (and most likely contracting pneumonia, or setting myself up to catch it soon after)...

...I got home and there was another email...

(seriously! who reads that fast?!?!)

...saying some of the nicest things I've ever had someone say about my writing... and asking to set up a phone conversation to chat.

(now do you understand why I say that I have been living in a state of delirium? I may also have double-checked the email address was legit as I was concerned that, if I replied, I would soon discover she was secretly a Nigerian princess who wanted to send me one million dollars just as soon as I passed along my social insurance number and banking information...)***

Okay what really happened is I closed my laptop. Like, snapped it shut and kinda tossed it onto the table -> there is now a dent in my coffee table. Then I sat on the sofa for a few minutes feeling like I was going to throw up. Then I re-read the email. Then I fed Eva and Berkeley (who were, of course, deeply offended that I had not immediately rushed to serve them dinner the moment I got home). And sat on the sofa for a while before re-reading the email yet again.

Thankfully, for all involved, I did not throw up.

(remember, I have a beagle. please don't imagine what she would have done with that...)****

Then I wrote back. And a couple hours later, I remembered to find something to eat for myself. Oh, and then took a hot shower since I was chilled right through and kinda soaking wet from running around the dog park in the dark, in the rain, and wearing inappropriately light clothing.*****

(yes, getting sick was entirely my own fault)

It was Thursday. I had send my MS on Tuesday.

We would talk Wednesday morning.

And we did.

Even though I barely had a voice at all because, at that point, I was quite terribly sick.

(well, I was at the tail end of the cold that turned into mild pneumonia. of course I wasn't really sick! okay, I admit I may have been in denial. like I admit it was fully my fault in the first place)

Now, beyond the awful-foghorn-croaky voice, I have no idea what I sounded like on the phone. More than once I've been accused of being a robot. Apparently, whenever I'm nervous or excited or upset or... whatever, I speak very calmly. Even when I laugh, it's nearly soundless.

(again, I need pointers on how to make a good first impression. people like to know you're excited...)

We ended the conversation with an agreement to talk on the 13th, adhering to the standard protocol: 7-to-10-painful-days-in-limbo where you email the other agents who have the full and give them time to weigh in or step aside.

...but I had already pretty much made up my mind because, honestly, I couldn't imagine how another agent could have felt like a better fit.

Without me even asking/prompting, Patricia had neatly ticked off every item on my theoretical "must have" list, and even a few on my "in a perfect world where I have a jetpack, a classic Shelby, the Seahawks are having a perfect season, and a comically-old-school-looking-robot-dressed-in-a-french-maid-uniform is in my kitchen prepared to cook/serve me gourmet food" list. Like, I know this is an insanely unimportant thing to wish for, but I've always (secretly) wanted an agent who is on the West Coast.

And San Diego? C'mon... it's like, the only city I could even imagine living, other than Vancouver or Seattle. Most people recognize me on the street because of the bright orange Padres baseball hat I wear while walking Eva.

Key on that list of "must haves":

- She absolutely did not want me to gender N (cue imaginary swooning scene right here.)

- Her absurdly fast response time. I'm absolutely neurotic about schedules/time. If I'm 10 minutes early for something, I'm still late. If I'm only going to be 5 minutes early, I'll call/text and let the person know I might be late. (Note: I don't expect others to be like this, it's a standard I hold for myself as I find it incredibly disrespectful to waste someone else's time. I'm more laid-back when it's someone else wasting my time... because usually I've already pre-scheduled for that.)

- She argued with me (YES!) And by that, I am not admitting to being a masochist. No, what I very much like, and admire in other people, is the willingness to stand by their convictions. We all come to the same problem with a different set of tools/experience/information, and I never like to enter into a discussion with the pre-formed opinion that I am right. In this particular case, she was right ;)

- Somewhat of a continuation of the last point, she asked questions about my characters/stories that I had never thought about, and offered several ideas about how to make the story richer/cleaner/clearer. Since I have that deeply-ingrained-belief that there's always going to be a problem I'll miss in my own writing, this gave me confidence that she would catch any dyslexic-blindspots, and not only at a copy-editing level, at a deeper, construction/structural level.

- She loves editing... and by that, I mean she isn't afraid to suggest big structural changes (shred it to bits and I'll thank you for it! ...wait, ahem, I am absolutely not admitting to being a masochist...). And I'm not too proud to confess I was very happy she doesn't think breaking the entire skeleton is necessary for TRoRS -> since I did spend a solid month last spring tearing apart and re-working that insane, non-linear timeline. I'm good with breaking/resetting a couple of limbs, the odd finger, and maybe a kneecap.

- Meeting with an agent in person is a rarity, so that was not a 'must have', but on my theoretical list was the necessity of a 'gut' feeling of compatibility. The good first impression from the not-a-pitch-turned-pitch was only reinforced by our conversation and by subsequent email/followup over the next week. I also talked to a couple of her other clients and didn't ask a lot of specific questions, merely listened to what they had been looking for in an agent, and how they had found working with Patricia. I was pleased that my 'gut' impression seemed to match their real-life experience.

And then there were many other small, lovely things that I would never have thought to put on a list, but was delighted that they came along as a package deal.

I told exactly six people (three of whom are direct blood relatives) during the 7-to-10-painful-days-in-limbo while waiting to hear back from the other agents who had fulls. I think it's probably a good thing I was sick or the impulse to tell more people might have overcome the deliciously-evil-fun of hoarding a good secret ;)

(I have a mastered quite the repertoire of maniacal laughs, each individually suited for other evil activities, delicious or otherwise)

Everyone else will be hearing about it today. When it's officially official.

(my brain may still clunk around for a while in mid-shock-mode, so a warning to those who have to interact with me in real life: if I suddenly palm-smack my forehead in the middle of a conversation with you, don't worry. I'm just trying to reboot)

I have to say that I love the humour of this happening on a Friday the 13th, since I do have well-crafted opinions about the idea of 'luck' (reminder: I dislike the concept of luck). And (surprisingly), with my mad-obsession with numbers, I didn't actually try to engineer it that way. Now, the only thing that would make it even better is if I happened to be her 13th client...

(spoiler: I'm not)

So, to everyone along the road (and yes, there have been many, many, many) who encouraged me, critiqued me, laughed with (at?) me, or otherwise tagged along so far on this (hopefully) amusing ride, thank you. I am... so incredibly happy to share this news with all of you. I have been extremely fortunate to fall in with such an amazing online (and in-real-life) community of writers. In all sincerity, thank you.

My heart is a little sad that one of my writing buddies, Sue Koenig, is not alive to read this post. In TRoRS, Triss's mom is Jewish because of Sue and her amazing New York accent, and no matter what I said, or what I thought, or how ambiguously I wrote, from the very beginning Sue firmly believed there was an intense f/f love-relationship between Triss & N, and heartily cheered it on.

...and as many wise people along the journey have said about this weird little manuscript, "it just has to find the right pair of eyes."

And I think that is the case.

Now... tell me... did I succeed in making you smile? Laugh?

(or possibly throw up a little in your mouth? I know, I know, referencing my dog was probably over the top)

Uhm, yeah. I don't really do 'heartwarming' or 'motivational' very well, do I? But I don't think any of you would have expected it, not from me :p

(bad grammar, yes... but heartwarming?)

Okay, this post is long enough, it's 9:42am, and I need to leave for physio at 9:45, so I'm going to end it here.

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

* Pneumonia is one of those strange things where, if you get it once, you've prone to getting it again. I had it pretty bad as a teenager, and I think this is now the third time since that I've caught it in the early stages.

** This is why I think I need pointers on how to make a better first impression. I have terribly inappropriate facts stored away in the 'small-talk-topics' file in my brain. Yes, I've actually used the 'substitute blood for eggs' in more than one conversation. And legitimately. Not to get someone annoying to go bother someone else.

*** Who doesn't like an old internet-scam joke?

**** And this fulfills the ongoing joke of how I always want a vomit reference to make the reader feel slightly queasy upon reading it. C'mon, tell me you didn't immediately imagine what I told you not to imagine...

***** Yeah. My fault. I fully admit it. This is kinda like when I was running on top of a split-wood fence and fell off. Or when I electrocuted myself. Or when I sortof-intentionally gave myself hypothermia by swimming in 14C lake water because I was curious to find out how quickly I would lose body heat and what that would feel like. Or... huh, I really have too many examples, don't I? Apparently, I have no sense of self-preservation. My tombstone will certainly read, "Curiosity killed her." Hopefully it doesn't also include the terms, "splat",  "poor eye-hand coordination", or "should have read the label before eating".